Large Land Birds
The crows and ravens are my favorite birds, they are, in my opinion, the smartest birds in the avian kingdom. The Northwestern Crow that lives on the Pacific Northwest Coast is an awesome bird to observe. You can see the intelligence in their eyes as they look at you.
The Northwestern Crow is a large black bird with long, solid bills. You can tell them apart from the common raven by their smaller size, slightly rounded tails, and high pitched voices. The northwestern crow is smaller than the closely related American crow and has huskier voices.
Many birders believe that the Northwestern Crow is not a true species, but rather, a subspecies of the American crow. Northwestern crows are omnivorous and eat a diet of vegetation and animal life. They will eat land and marine creatures including fish, snakes, frogs, bird eggs. They have also found a source of food in human refuse. They will also eat seeds, fruit, and carrion. The northwestern crow lives on the Pacific coast from southern Alaska to Washington.
They are non-migratory and stay within their breeding ranges. Winter ranges are more or less identical to breeding ranges. Except on the west coast of Vancouver Island, the crows that breed on the little outer islands will move to the larger land areas around local communities and join the crows there, for the winter months, increasing their populations dramatically.
The Story Of Merlin The Crow
In 1987, my wife Georgina and I were doing some spring cleaning in the yard, picking up paper and raking up winter debris, my wife was just reaching down to pick up a piece of pink paper, when it rolled over and gave her a tiny but startling squawk, my wife screamed and fell back onto the ground and called me to come quick and look.
The pink paper turned out to be a just-hatched baby crow that must have been pushed from the nest by an older sibling. It looked so weak and helpless just lying there. My first thought was to get this baby crow back into its nest, but as I looked up at the giant fir tree before me, I realized there was no way to get this hatchling back to its nest.
My next thought was, let’s raise him. So the bird whose name became Merlin was moved into the house and a great and wonderful adventure was started. I had no idea what crows ate in the wild, so l got on the phone and got hold of every organization and bird society that l could think of and asked them what l needed to do to feed and care for this little bird. Most told me it was too young and that l should just let it die.
I then phoned the ministry of Fish and Game office in Campbell River and got a man on the line who understood crows and he helped with many things. He had a great knowledge of crows and told me what the wild crow’s diet consisted of and how a mother crow would feed it to her young. This involved the chewing up of insects and bugs, thank god for little food processors. I don’t remember the name of the Fish and Game guy, but he was awesome.
So Merlin got a nice warm nest area right beside the wood heater where he would be warm at night and he got constant care all day long. We kept Merlin warm at night and got him to eat and over the next few months, he grew into a full-grown crow. He lived on a perch in our living room and was very inquisitive about everything. If a person he had not seen before walked in, Merlin would tilt his head from side to side, checking them out and then with a loud caw he would launch himself towards the visitor and with flashing wings would land upon their head for a better look. This came as a great surprise to many of our visitors.
By the fall, Merlin went everywhere with me both in the house and out in the yard. He loved being outside and would spend hours watching his fellow crows. I am sure that he knew they were his extended family members. As fall came and winter was getting close, Merlin asked me to take him outside where we were greeted by many Crows in our fir trees, all cawing and making other crow sounds. Merlin was cawing back and getting very excited, then all at once, the other crows flew into the air and started to fly away, and Merlin flew up to join them.
As he was leaving, Merlin flew around our yard a couple of times and then flew off with the other crows cawing away, almost like he was saying goodbye. He visited several times over the next few years, then we moved and l lost contact with him, l hope all is well with Merlin, he was a true friend of mine.